April 2020 Issue

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April 2020 Issue

“This extraordinarily flexible emergency block grant empowers you [governors] to decide how best to meet the current needs of students, schools (including charter schools and non-public schools), postsecondary institutions, and other education-related organizations in your State so that faculty continue to teach and students continue to learn. My Department will not micromanage how you spend these funds, but I encourage you, at a time when so many school boards, superintendents, and institutions of higher education have had to close their brick and mortar campuses for the balance of the school year, to focus these resources on ensuring that all students continue to learn most likely through some form of remote learning. They and their families are depending on your leadership to ensure that they don’t fall behind.” 

— Secretary Betsy DeVos (4/14/20), in a cover letter to governors on the nearly $3 billion Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund

Education Stabilization Fund

In late March, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This $2 trillion package of assistance measures includes $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund. At Secretary DeVos’ urging, the Department is working to make funds available as quickly as possible.

On April 14, the Secretary announced nearly $3 billion available to governors. The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund is a flexible emergency block grant designed to enable governors to decide how best to meet the needs of their students, schools (including charter schools and non-public schools), institutions of higher education, and other education-related organizations.

On April 23, the Secretary announced that more than $13.2 billion in emergency relief funds are now available to state and local educational agencies. Education leaders will have the flexibility to use funds from the Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief Fund (ESSER Fund) for immediate needs, such as tools and resources for distance education, ensuring student health and safety, and developing and implementing plans for the next school year.

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

The CARES Act provides over $14 billion to support higher education students and institutions. through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEER)

The Secretary announced the first portion of HEER funding on April 9, making more than $6 billion available to institutions of higher education to provide direct emergency cash grants to students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by COVID-19. Students may use these funds for course materials and technology, as well as food, housing, health care, and child care.

On April 21, the Secretary announced the second portion of HEER funding, making available $6.2 billion to higher education institutions to cover any costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to COVID-19. Institutions may use these funds to expand remote learning programs, build IT capacity, and train faculty and staff to operate in a remote learning environment. The funding for these “Recipient Institutional Costs” is separate from the funding previously made available for “Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students.”

The Department shared frequency ask questions documents for both the Emergency Federal Aid Grants to Students and the Institutional Portion of the HEER.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources Available

COVID-19 Resoruces

The White House, the Department of Education, and other federal agencies have released and updated a significant amount of guidance to support schools, educators, and families regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus). For updated information, please visit Coronavirus.gov, CDC.gov/coronavirus, and USA.gov/coronavirus.

For education-related information, the Department has established a dedicated Coronavirus webpage (ed.gov/coronavirus), which includes information for families and communities that is continually being added to and updated, including:

The Department’s Coronavirus webpage also contains resources for institutions of higher education and for K-12.

The Department will continue to update its website, ed.gov/coronavirus. Please direct education related questions to COVID-19@ed.gov.

2020 Green Ribbon Schools Announced

Green Ribbon Schools Program logo

On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day (April 22), the Department announced 2020 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees. A total of 39 schools, 11 school districts, and five postsecondary institutions -- nominated by 27 states -- were selected for their progress in reducing environmental impact and utility costs, promoting better health for students and staff, and offering effective environmental education. To learn more about the honorees, see the nomination packages and highlights document. (Note: There are resources available for all schools -- preschool through postsecondary -- through the agency’s Green Strides portal.)

Department's Office for Civil Rights Updates

The Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released its Annual Report to the Secretary, the President, and the Congress (Annual Report) for Fiscal Years (FYs) 2017-18. The Annual Report summarizes OCR’s compliance and enforcement activities during the first two years of the Trump administration and highlights the many ways in which OCR strives to meet its mission of ensuring equal access to education and promoting educational excellence through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.

In addition, OCR's Center for Outreach, Prevention, Education, and Non-discrimination launched a short webinar entitled “OCR 100: An Introduction to Federal Civil Rights Protections in Education.” In addition to providing a general introduction to OCR, the webinar describes the six federal civil rights laws enforced by OCR, provides examples of prohibited discrimination under each, and offers a brief overview of OCR’s complaint process.

2018 NAEP Civics, Geography, U.S. History Assessment Results

The National Center for Education Statistics has released the 2018 National Assessment on Educational Progress (NAEP) Civics, Geography, and U.S. History eighth-grade assessment results. There was no significant change in the 2018 average civics score for eighth-grade students, including Hispanic students, compared to the score in 2014. In geography, the 2018 average score for eighth-grade students was lower than in 2014, though there was no significant change in the average score for Hispanic students. In U.S. History, the average U.S. history score in 2018 for eighth-grade students, including Hispanic students, was lower than in 2014.

The Secretary released the following statement regarding the 2018 NAEP Civics, Geography, and U.S. History assessment results: 

“America's antiquated approach to education is creating a generation of future leaders who will not have a foundational understanding of what makes this country exceptional. We cannot continue to excuse this problem away. Instead, we need to fundamentally rethink education in America. It is the only way our nation’s students will be in a position to lead our nation and the world."

Second Chance Pell Experiment Expansion

On April 24, Secretary DeVos announced that the Department was inviting a new cohort of 67 schools, including Hispanic-Serving Institutions, to participate in its Second Chance Pell experiment, creating more education opportunities for incarcerated students. This action expands on the Trump Administration’s commitment to offer incarcerated individuals a second chance upon their re-entry to society, helping to reduce rates of recidivism. The expansion more than doubles the size of the experiment, allowing incarcerated students to use Federal Pell Grants at 130 schools located in 42 states and the District of Columbia.

The Second Chance Pell Experiment provides need-based Federal Pell Grants to individuals incarcerated in federal and state prisons. The grants allow incarcerated individuals to receive Federal funding to enroll in postsecondary programs offered by local colleges and universities or distance learning providers. According to a recent study by the Vera Institute of Justice, more than 4,000 credentials—including postsecondary certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees—have been awarded to Second Chance Pell students over the past three years. Additionally, according to the Rand Corporation, individuals who participate in correctional education programs are 43 percent less likely to return to prison than those who do not.

ED.Gov Redesign Challenge

The Department is seeking prototypes for a redesign of ED.gov, the Department’s homepage, using a Challenge-Based Acquisition approach to solicit strong entries from businesses, non-profit organizations, academia, entrepreneurs, and anyone with proven expertise in web design. The Department has posted a solicitation on Challenge.gov. Submissions are due by June 15, 2020.

State Grant Opportunities to Rethink Education COVID-19 Recovery

On April 27, the Secretary announced more than $300 million in discretionary funding for states to create adaptable, innovative learning opportunities for K-12 and postsecondary learners in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. This funding is part of the Education Stabilization Fund and will be distributed in two grant competitions:

The Rethink K-12 School Models Grant is aimed at opening new, innovative ways for students to access K-12 education with an emphasis on meeting students’ needs during the COVID-19 national emergency.

The Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grants are designed to expand short-term postsecondary programs and work-based learning programs in order to get Americans back to work and help small businesses return to being our country’s engines for economic growth.

Virtual Mini Conference for Early Childhood Educators

Register for the Young Child Expo and Conference: COVID-19 Response and learn how school districts and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)-funded developers are supporting the education of young children during COVID-19. It will be held on Tuesday, May 5 from 1pm to 4:30pm ET. Open to early childhood educators and parents, attendees will hear from superintendents on how their school districts are supporting early learners. In addition, SBIR-funded developers will provide virtual sessions.

COVID-19 Evidence-Based Resources from the Regional Educational Laboratories

Distance Learning Proposed Rules

On April 1, Secretary DeVos proposed new rules to govern distance learning for higher education students. Although work on the Distance Learning and Innovation regulation started over a year ago, the COVID-19 national emergency underscores the need for reform and for all institutions to have a robust capacity to teach remotely. The proposed new rules enhance educational quality and reduce barriers to innovation while also maintaining safeguards to limit the risks to students and taxpayers. The draft regulation is available for public comment through May 4, 2020.

Teacher Training Priority

Secretary DeVos proposed a new funding priority for the Education Innovation and Research program to empower teachers, through stipends or vouchers, to select and access professional development courses and opportunities that are relevant to their personal needs or career goals, instead of having one-size-fits-all programming dictated to them. This proposed priority will help the Department explore whether personalized professional development has a positive effect on instructional practice, and, in turn, a positive impact on student success. The agency seeks feedback from the public about this priority. Comments are welcome until May 13, 2020.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission University Grant Opportunities

Due to issues surrounding COVID-19, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission extended its application deadline to May 8, 2020, for its two FY 2020 Funding Opportunity Announcements under the Integrated University Program. These grants are the Research and Development Grant and the Nuclear Education Program for Scholarship and Fellowships, Faculty Development, Trade School and Community College Scholarships.

If interested applicants have questions regarding the grants, they can contact Nancy Hebron-Isreal at: nancy.hebron-isreal@nrc.gov or 301-415-6996.

Youth Apprenticeship Grant Opportunity

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration announced the availability of $42.5 million in Youth Apprenticeship Readiness Grants to support the enrollment of in-school or out-of-school youth apprentices (ages 16-24) into new or existing Registered Apprenticeship Programs. The deadline for grant applications is May 6, 2020.

Presidential Management Fellows Program Webinar

PMF OPM logo

Are you a rising leader interested in confronting the nation’s most pressing challenges through public service? Apply for the 2021 Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program. PMF is the Federal government’s flagship leadership development program for advanced degree candidates. The two-year fellowship offers full salary, benefits, and leadership training to develop a cadre of future government leaders. All academic disciplines are encouraged to apply.

Join our informational webinar for prospective applicants on Wednesday, May 27 from 3–4 p.m. (ET). Cohosted by the Office of Personnel Management and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, the webinar will provide a general overview of the PMF Program, details about the 2021 application cycle, and allow for any questions. Please register in advance.